“Taking a Dream Vacation,” July 13, 2021

Summer is a good time to travel. As a child, I spent most summers roaming the Earth through the dog-eared pages of an encyclopedia. That’s how I first discovered faraway places like Casablanca and California.

Reading introduced me to the world. But I traveled on flights of imagination. I would close my eyes and recreate in my mind a photo of a place or work of art that had caught my eye. Then my mind would take wing and carry me away to imagine how it would feel to visit that place and see that image in reality.

I was especially fascinated by a photo of a statue that, according to the encyclopedia, had been carved hundreds of years ago by a man named Michelangelo. In my expert opinion (I was 10), it was a perfect rendering of the David I knew from the Bible.

I wish you could see it. If you haven’t seen The David, look it up. You can thank me later.

Not only was it a breathtaking piece of art. It was also the first image I’d ever encountered of a totally nude male. I wondered: Did my mother know what was in that encyclopedia? And would I get in trouble for staring at it?

The only real travel I did as a child was to spend a few weeks on my grandparents’ farm in the mountains of North Carolina, or a weekend at Myrtle Beach. But after college, I flew from the Carolinas to California—a place I had often visited in my dreams—to spend a summer with my favorite aunt, Shirl.

That was it. I stayed, married, started a family and, in time, began a career. And “California of All Places” (as my mother called it) became my home.

My husband was a teacher and a basketball coach. Our travels were limited to away-games and summer camping trips. Our children grew up riding buses with basketball players and spending a week every summer splashing their mother in a river in Yosemite. They say it was a good way to grow up.

We seldom traveled far. But you can learn a lot about the world without ever leaving home, just by reading, watching, listening, asking questions, paying attention and dreaming.

My children were in their early 20s when we lost their dad to cancer. In the wake of his loss, we stayed close as a family. But we each began to find our own ways around the world.

My oldest, an actor, went to Romania to film a movie. My daughter went to Denmark to visit a friend. My youngest spent a month in Nepal, hiking the foothills of the Himalayas.

I did some “real” traveling, too. First, I went to Holland to be “best man” at the wedding of one of my husband’s former basketball players, who had lived with us for a year. Then I went to London, Paris, Rome, Athens, Casablanca and, yes, to Florence to see The David.

I also visited lots of places that didn’t require a passport, towns that had carried my column for years, where I met readers who made me feel like family.

The last chance I had to do that was more than a year ago, days before the pandemic lock down, when I flew to Wichita Falls, Texas, to speak to hundreds of good people at a fundraiser for a local charity. It felt (as I often say) like a family reunion, without the fistfights.

I hope to travel for “real” again soon. But it will never take the place of simply traveling in my dreams, recalling people I’ve met and places I’ve been, and imagining the people I’ve yet to meet and places I’ve yet to go.

If you can’t afford to travel—or don’t care to spend days wandering through airports, wishing you’d worn more sensible shoes—here’s another way to see the world.

When you meet someone new, or spend time with an old friend, smile into their eyes and ask: “Where did you grow up? What was it like? What’s the most interesting place you’ve ever been? If you could go anywhere on Earth, where would you go? And why?”

I hope we all get to travel this summer. If only in our dreams.


  1. Claudia Dant says

    I did not travel as a child, except with Girl Scouts or the church youth group, because my dad was a truck driver and he did not want to go anyplace after he got home. This was disappointing to my mother, but she loved him dearly. When I grew up I wanted to travel. One of the places which did not disappoint at all–a fabulous place–was the old city of Harper’s Ferry. It is so picturesque, deep in a valley with a winding river and so many old buildings and the original stone curbs on the streets and stone buildings. It was everything that I could have imagined and more.

  2. Susan Kovarick says

    This works for me at Atterdag Village, my home now in Solvang. It’s a great way for new residents to meet and greet. This is a stellar multi- level retirement village. If you are ever coming this way I would love to arrange a visit! I have followed you since Navy days in Monterey. TY. Susan

  3. Kate Sciacca says

    I traveled for a few minutes in line at Savemart… an older fellow, ok, older than me…came rushing towards the checkout holding a carton of ice cream… I had more in my cart than that and insisted he go ahead of me. “You look like a man on a mission! Please, go ahead!” He thanked me and explained his mission… which was three grandchildren who wanted ice cream, now! He pulled out pics and told me how he’d traveled the rodeo circuit for decades, but preferred to share those stories with the grandkids rather than continue those travels 😉. Told me about the places he’d been, all over the west (I mentioned that I’d just returned from Lincoln MT – he knew about their rodeo 😊). Anyway, I sure could picture that old cowboy shaking up dust in Bozeman and Grand Junction (if I recall right) and several other places. It was a nice trip… then he paid for his ice cream and was on his way. Didn’t cost me a dime…. Well, except for the beer, wine and chips in my basket…. Staples.

  4. I have done a lot of traveling via books! I love to imagine my self in some of those far away places.
    Being the loving wife that I am -😁- I will be traveling with my hubby 10 1/2 hours (it will probably be
    more like 12!) , bouncing along I-80 in a pick up truck, pulling a car trailer that will be tenderly carrying
    hubby’s ‘63 Chevy to a car event in a place that claims to be the most German town in America. New Ulm, MN!
    And I’m not even a big fan of sauerkraut. Or schnitzel. Or beer. If I wasn’t afraid hubby would go to sleep behind
    the wheel or forget to listen to Ms Magnolia on our GPS, I would just stay home. Pretty sure he is going to owe
    me a trip to a beautiful botanical garden. At least I will get to see America’s corn fields & I do love the Midwest.

  5. All good: reading, imagination, & travel. Love it all.

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